Teachers outside working on lyrics for our song at the Teacher Art Retreat 2012.

When you become a teacher, you NEVER leave school.  I don’t just mean you go to school every day, I also mean you never stop having to take classes.  Teachers are life-long learners in the most pure sense of the phrase.  We are constantly learning new methods, strategies, and activities.  We constantly research, question and collaborate.  Teachers may teach, but we are also expert learners!

And with so many options, opportunities and avenues of gaining this new knowledge, there are a great many choices to make when it comes to professional development.

Of course, we have the typical PD that our districts provide.  These include district or school-wide initiatives and in-house training.  However the really great PD comes into play when YOU take charge of your own PD!

This is the case for me this past week.  I worked diligently to get the Drumming for Your Life organization out in California to come across the country to Amesbury, Massachusetts and train 9 of our teachers in their Reading and Rhythm program.  For the past 6 school days, we have been given a day-long training as well as individualized follow-up in the classroom.  This is something that the two elementary school principals and other administration supported, but it was an absolute grass roots movement from the teachers.  We wanted the program here and worked hard to get it!

That is an extreme example, though.  We as individual and small groups of teachers can also take charge of our own professional development.

Teacher Differentiation

In as sense, taking charge of our own PD is like differentiating for own needs.

What do you need?  A refresher in something?  A little help in spelling instruction?  An inspiring course in arts integration?  A new approach to reading comprehension?  A whole masters’ degree?

Once you figure out what you want out of your PD, then you can go after it by seeing what’s available to you in your area or online.  Other times, you may see PD advertised that may spark your interest.  If that’s the case, you need to jump on it!

Types of PD

I get a lot of mail that gives many PD options from one day workshops to week-long seminars.  They all have their place, you just need to know what to expect so you can find the right fit.

The one day workshops seem to be the best for quick and easy idea implementation.  You get a full day to look at a topic with a group of other teachers and can, in many cases implement the ideas immediately starting the next day in school.  These are usually led by another teacher or former teacher so they understand where you are coming from.  I’ve taught these in arts integration and the connections between music and literacy, filling them with activities to try and ideas to bring back to the classroom.  I’ve also taken many workshops in areas from test prep to reading instruction.

#edcamps and unconferences are great for networking and quick idea getting.  These workshop days also get you pumped to collaborate and try new things, not to mention give you a sense of pride to be a teacher.  At an unconference, such as an #edcamp, the schedule is made that morning by the teachers in attendance.  These teachers have something they want to share whether it be a new type of cloud computing they have tried in the classroom or an organizational system that works.  Again, because it comes from teachers, it is practical and relevant.  Instead of focusing on one topic all day, you choose which 1-2 hour sessions you want to attend.

Conferences can be anywhere from 1-7 days long.  They involve key note speakers and short workshop sessions.  They are usually focused around one centralized theme and are planned well in advance.  There are national conferences put on by such organizations as the Arts Education Partnership which foucses on arts advocacy and arts and learning, the National Associate for Music Educators build just for music teachers and supporters and International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) where people come from all over the world to learn about and share the latest and greatest in educational technology.  These conferences are energizing and can be massively attended.  There is often so much information that is given, it can be overwhelming.  You often need your evenings to go through your notes and fun give aways, so plan time for that!

Online learning  is now an option and is becoming quite a popular choice for busy professionals.  Online courses are easy to sign up for and the work load is up to you to complete with a few check ins with your instructor.  Grad credit is often an option, but you can sometimes take a course for less money and no credit – you do what you need to do for your teaching situation.  In the very near future (this summer), The Inspired Classroom will be offering the first online course for credit or PDPs in music integration.  Be on the look-out for that!

Another great online opportunity, especially for educators interested in arts integration is the Connectivity Conference given through Education Closet.  I will be presenting there for a session on Music and the Common Core! 🙂  There are many other great presenters as well who will give insights to this year’s theme: The hART of the Core.  Be sure to check it out and sign up to join the over 150 teachers who have already done so.  And…  get some PD from your beach chair!

And then there is the RETREAT.  This is The Inspired Classroom’s baby: professional development custom made with the creative teacher in mind.  A time that is hands-on, art-based and teacher-centered.  The summer Teacher Art Retreat is a face-to-face three day retreat where teachers learn a variety of art forms by doing them. Each year, we have amazing, hands-on workshops led by teachers and artist that truly inspire their students and inspire us!  We’ve been hosting teacher retreats since 2011 and have had workshops in everything from poetry to songwriting to puppetry and Pysanky.  There’s always a variety of new skills and techniques to learn and bring back to your students.

Excite your PD!

Don’t just rely on the things your district plans for you.  If you have professional days to take, take them and go do something that will excite you to do more for your own teaching.  After all, you have to Get Inspired in order to Be Inspiring to your students.

Check out what is available through your local universities or online and take the plunge to travel to a great conference or retreat.  Go with some friends or even alone – you will meet many great people when you arrive.  One of my most exhilarating conference experiences what driving 7 hours to an #edcamp with my sister-in-law.  Another time, I flew into Philly from Boston to attend the ISTE conference and stay at a hotel for three nights.  It was a great get away that fed the mind.

So, take charge of your own learning (just like we want our students to do) and see what possibilities are out there for you!


For more information about the our Teacher Art Retreats, check out our Teacher Art Retreat page!